Readers' letters: Feeling optimistic in New Zealand

Governments around the world are having to make stark choices. Do we save lives, or do we save jobs and the economy?
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern     Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty ImagesNew Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern     Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images
New Zealand Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern Photo: Hagen Hopkins/Getty Images

Most have tried to strike a balance by trying to keep the economy moving as much as possible while trying to minimise the number of lives lost to Covid-19, with varying degrees of success.

Four years ago, we moved from the Fylde to New Zealand to be near our daughter and, while I have fond memories of my home town, I am very grateful that I live here at the moment.

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The New Zealand Government decided that, as a principle, lives were more important than the economic implications of the pandemic.

They followed the advice of epidemiologists and set about eliminating the virus from the community.

They closed the borders to all but returning residents and citizens, initially requiring them to self isolate at home for 14 days but when the numbers of returnees dropped to manageable proportions, they paid for those still coming back to be isolated in specific hotels in the main centres, testing on day three and day twelve of their stay.

If they were still negative after 14 days, they were free to join the wider community.

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Anyone who tested positive during these two weeks were immediately moved to a quarantine facility where they were treated and tested until they no longer were a risk to the community. Close contacts who had travelled with the cases were similarly quarantined.

Meanwhile, testing in the community continues throughout the country and anyone with symptoms is encouraged to get tested.

As a result of this, some small clusters have come to light but they have been rigorously managed with contact tracing and those cases moved into quarantine facilities.

The net result of all this is that New Zealand is pretty much clear of the virus in the community, although we get cases at the borders. We are at the stage now where we can go about our normal lives within our borders. Parts of the economy have suffered and will continue to suffer, especially those linked with travel and tourism. Overseas holidays are impossible but Kiwis are rediscovering the beauties of their homeland and, with care and control at the borders, we can continue like that until a vaccine is available.

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The overall economy is picking up with exports of agricultural products and timber doing well. Service industries are finding it more difficult but are coming up with creative ways to stay in business.

I don’t think I would have had such an optimistic outlook if I still lived in Lytham.

Bob Jones

Hamilton, New Zealand